Less than seven weeks until Iowa, only one path remains for Rand Paul to win the presidency: energize the Remnant.
Gazing out from your balcony atop the darkened city, you notice in the distance a cloaked figure descending a hill at the base of the nearby mountain. The man’s staff and stoop remind you of a wizard from fantasy or a prophet of old. Topping his staff is a lantern that shines with an uncommon glow, growing brighter as he slowly approaches the outskirts of the city. You see his lips moving but you cannot hear him. Not yet.
Years pass. Now and then, you travel to the edge of the city to meet the man and listen to his message. To small pockets of seekers he speaks softly, never raising his voice, of the rights of all people and the free world to come. You keep coming back to learn more, to share more, to exemplify more, for your friends of the city. Slow progress is made. You did not imagine in those early days that the axis of the world would tilt, and the man’s whispers would come to roar like thunder.
There came a moment, exactly eight years ago to this day, when it seemed as if that voice laboring 30 years in the wilderness was finally being heard. The man’s revolutionary message had been exposed at last to full view, breaking past the censors, for all to see.
On December 16th, 2007, grassroots supporters of Ron Paul contributed more than $6 million to his presidential campaign in just 24 hours, shattering the previous single-day fundraising record. Said one pundit afterward:
“Ron, eighteen million dollars. That’s your fourth-quarter tally. You’ve set the record. In the history of American politics, nobody has raised more money in a single day than you. And yet, this is happening without your campaign people coordinating. This is completely about grassroots. And it’s completely about you just saying what you believe in.”
For the grassroots it was never about the money. It was about sending a message: You the media, and you the voters, really need to pay attention to what this man is saying. This man who ends his speeches not with a request for votes or money, but with a call to “spread the message.”
Countless thousands answered the call. We came from all over the political spectrum: left, right, and center; disaffected independents, experienced politicos, complete newbies; former neocons and antiwar activists both – a broad cross-section of American society.
We did not show up at campaign headquarters and stuff envelopes. As explained by activist Ernie Hancock:
The reason this got so large so fast was because they did exactly what they wanted to, to express themselves to their peers, the people that mattered on their street corner, in their neighborhood.… We started the Ron Paul Revolution sign production. We would do this every Friday in at least one to three stations across just Arizona…. We would have people on a Friday making two to three hundred signs.
It was more than a political campaign. It was a guerrilla army of rogue activists with Ron Paul’s informal blessing but no centralized control structure. Ron Paul himself described it this way:
I was told early on when I first got into politics that you develop your logo and you stay uniformed, and everybody does this, and you put this on every piece of literature and your TV and your bumper stickers and everything else. And I kept remarking that the characteristic of our campaign was that there was no characteristic. It was miscellaneous, spontaneous, homemade, all shapes and sizes and colors. It turned out that it was not uniform, and everybody knew it, but it didn’t seem to hurt us.
A humble understatement, as always. Author Mary Ruwart summed up:
I think that’s why the Ron Paul campaign was successful, and why people who have tried to imitate it haven’t done very well. Because they’ve tried to plan it and you can’t plan it. You have to inspire people and let them do what they do best.
You can’t plan it. You can’t micromanage it. You have to inspire people and let them carry the message forward however they see fit.
Tell that to the consultants.
The unfortunate thing about a pile of millions of dollars is that it attracts people who think in terms of money and not the magic of the message.
So it was with the Ron Paul network after the 2007 moneybombs.
After the 2008 campaign wound down, Campaign for Liberty launched to great fanfare as the official vehicle for the continuation of the Ron Paul Revolution. It was supposed to cement the grassroots infrastructure that sprung up in late 2007 and early 2008, turning it into a fighting force that would influence voters and party committees in all 50 states.
But Campaign for Liberty was run by “professionals”, not alumni of the grassroots school of hard knocks. That beautiful vibrant decentralized magic never coalesced for C4L. In some of the local chapters, yes it was there in bits and pieces, but even those chapters were doomed to decline by the fundamental issue of that organization: it was run from the top down, instead of serving the grassroots from the bottom up.
Ask any old C4L member about the fundraising emails from a certain C4L president and count their grimaces and eye-rolls. The starry-eyed hope and rugged determination of the Ron Paul Revolution had been replaced with old-world fearmongering and doom-saying – unless you chipped in $25, $50, or $100 right now. (Sound like any emails you’ve received lately?)
As C4L devolved into a glorified fundraising machine, its mission narrowed to one single legislative push: audit the Fed. That narrowing of focus reflected the reality all had felt but had gone largely unspoken: C4L had abandoned its larger vision of channeling the decentralized grassroots energy with some supporting structure. And that was out of necessity, because they had unwittingly pioneered a major shift in how the grassroots would be treated: as a piggybank, to be held at arms’ length, to be satisfied and pacified but never truly appreciated, engaged, or unleashed.
That approach has continued to this day. Different staffers, same stiff-arming.
The past eight years have seen a slow inexorable decline in grassroots engagement since peaking on December 16th, 2007.
Much has been written about Rand not being his father, with a focus on Rand’s issues or messaging style. But those analyses missed the critical issue of organization.
The decline in grassroots enthusiasm began before Rand took the baton from Ron. It began as soon as the consultants started getting their hooks into Paulworld and erected barriers between the campaign and the grassroots – at times specifically disparaging the spontaneous atypical activism that characterized the Ron Paul 2008 campaign.
Each campaign has held a December 16 moneybomb: that cycle’s most hyped fundraising event. It’s the simplest barometer of grassroots enthusiasm across campaigns.
Here is how they compared:
- 12/16/2007: $6.03 million in one day
- 12/16/2011: $4 million over two days
- 12/16/2015: $100,000 in one day
The spontaneous order that emerged during the Ron Paul 2008 campaign lines up neatly with Albert Jay Nock’s concept of the Remnant, described in his essay Isaiah’s Job.
Nock introduces the Remnant after describing Isaiah’s willingness to take on a prophetic job that the Lord informed him would lead to no measurable difference:
Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job – in fact, he had asked for it – but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so – if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start – was there any sense in starting it? “Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”
The key distinction here is between the Remnant? — ?a group of people which exists unknown until they decide to make themselves known? — ?and the masses.
Isaiah’s job was to fortify the Remnant. Nock contrasts that with the false prophets everywhere in society today: “Everyone with a message nowadays is… eager to take it to the masses.”
Why is that a problem?
It necessitates an opportunist sophistication of one’s doctrine, which profoundly alters its character and reduces it to a mere placebo. If, say, you are a preacher, you wish to attract as large a congregation as you can, which means an appeal to the masses; and this, in turn, means adapting the terms of your message to the order of intellect and character that the masses exhibit. … But as we see on all sides, in the realization of these several desires, the prophetic message is so heavily adulterated with trivialities, in every instance, that its effect on the masses is merely to harden them in their sins. Meanwhile, the Remnant, aware of this adulteration and of the desires that prompt it, turn their backs on the prophet and will have nothing to do with him or his message.
Case in point: Rand Paul 2016.
The trajectory of the Rand Paul campaign to date can be understood primarily in terms of an inability or unwillingness to attract and energize that Remnant.
But though the hour is late, it is not too late to change course.
In the season two finale of House of Cards – minor spoiler ahead – Vice President Francis Underwood isn’t getting what he wants. Everything he’s worked for is about to unravel. President Garrett Walker is about to release information that will destroy Frank’s reputation and block his path to the presidency.
Frank tells his wife of his plans going awry, saying he’s trying his best. Claire rips into him, telling him to do whatever is necessary: “Seduce him. Give him your heart. Cut it out and put it in his f – ing hands.”
The Rand Paul campaign needs some heart surgery.
This author – and hundreds if not thousands of my peers – became liberty activists directly because of Ron Paul’s infamous spat with Giuliani in the May 2007 Republican debate. The moment pundits thought would end Dr. Paul’s campaign actually ignited a movement that continues impacting American politics to this day.
The electrifying issue was foreign policy. Ron Paul threw a stake in the ground – arguing that 9/11 was ‘blowback’, motivated by specific U.S. foreign policy actions abroad – and did not back down. His courageous stand got the attention of the Remnant. The rest is history.
To Senator Paul:
Foreign policy is the battle everyone wants to see. The Vegas debate was an excellent start. You (and Cruz) have Rubio and Christie on the defensive. Now is the time to press the attack.
You have unique credibility because you played a major role in averting open war against Syria in 2013. The Obama administration blatantly lied about Syria just like the Bush administration blatantly lied about Iraq. You successfully led the Republican opposition to his reckless call for regime change. You made Obama back down.
We stood with you then, and we will stand with you now.
These are the stakes:
The reckless chickenhawks – namely Rubio, Christie, Bush, and multiple others – propose actions, including a Syria no-fly zone, that could very easily ignite World War III, as you pointed out during the debate.
So don’t be a gentleman. Be a lion. Get your energy up. Attack and destroy bad ideas. Throw haymakers. Strike to end political careers. Be the most vocal and effective fighter for liberty and peace.
Because who we choose for commander-in-chief could well determine whether America gets sucked into a devastating war with major powers, or keeps to a foreign policy of realism and restraint.
Those are exactly the stakes. Now we just need everyone who recognizes it – that means you and your staff and your supporters – to act accordingly.
Senator Paul: If you HAD TO WIN this race in order to prevent a disastrous war and save thousands of innocent lives, HOW WOULD YOU CAMPAIGN?
And to the grassroots: If Rand Paul HAD TO WIN this race in order to prevent the next war and save thousands of innocent lives, HOW WOULD YOU CAMPAIGN?
All presidential campaigns have a certain inertia: a certain way of doing things, a web of contracts and agreements, a particular arrangement of staff and consultants and volunteers.
To live up to its potential, the Rand Paul campaign needs certain structural changes. If the campaign does not change willingly, the grassroots needs either to pressure them and overcome that inertia, or to rapidly create infrastructure independent of the campaign.
The campaign’s present formula is the following:
- Say libertarianish things that appeal to the Ron Paul crowd
- Bombard email list for grassroots donations
- Pay for consultants and advertising
To win, it should instead do the following:
- Declare a line in the sand. Go on the offensive with a massive blitz for liberty principles. Take the fight to Trump and Rubio and Christie. Fight like hell. Op-eds, interviews, YouTube videos. Personalize your attacks. Step on their toes. Name names. HAMMER THEM.
- Ask the grassroots to take responsibility for the success of the campaign. Ask how you can deserve our support. Ask us to donate to – and fundraise for – SPECIFIC project plans based at least partly on ideas of the grassroots. Allow room for creativity and grassroots initiative.
- Invest in the grassroots. Expand the phone-from-home program, post a public leaderboard, and offer prizes for top activists. Gamify various forms of effective activism and ask for feedback on what to incentivize. Decentralize and delegate to the grassroots wherever possible.
In sum, cut out the heart of the campaign and put it in the hands of the grassroots.
See if the Remnant coalesces to revive it, heal it, augment it.
There is no other path to victory.
In the meantime, probably the most effective thing activists can do right now is make phone calls to voters.
The phone-from-home program played a major role in Ron Paul coming within a few points of winning Iowa in 2012. Right now the volume of calls being made is nowhere near what it was in 2012, and that needs to change.
The campaign has a decent phone-from-home setup using the i360 platform. You can email email@example.com and she will set you up with an account and password.
If for some reason you reaaaallly don’t want to work through the official campaign, please shoot me a message on Facebook or Twitter. I am considering releasing a grassroots mobile app in early January that can incentivize persuasion phone calls and other activism independent of the campaign. I would love your feedback on what to include.
If you take one thing from this posting, please let it be this: the fate of Rand Paul’s candidacy rests in YOUR hands.
And as the old saying goes…
“Don’t wait for orders from headquarters. Mount up and ride to the sound of the guns.”
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